Education

The Joy of Creating Relationships with Clients {Photographer Education, Life Prints Portrait Design}

Posted on March 23, 2011. Filed under: Education, For Photographers, photography business | Tags: , , , |

I’ve worked a lot of jobs in my life and I’ve also run a couple of my own businesses along the way.  While each one has taught me a lot, I discovered my true passion in life a few years ago and it has made all the difference in the world to me in terms of my outlook on life and where I am headed in regard to my career.  I am a portrait photographer, and I wouldn’t trade it for any job in the world. 

Over the past few years, I have worked hard to learn all I could about customer service because, while photography is my passion, I truly believe that my relationships with my clients are the cornerstone of my business.   Every potential client that calls me deserves to be treated with respect and kindness (whether or not they continue to deserve it depends on them!)  My basic assumption though, is that every client should be treated as my first, last and best client.  That’s it, the bottom line.  Building those relationships past that initial call though takes time and care.  Most of the time I have found that if I treat my clients as I would want to be treated (hmmm, the golden rule?), then building those relationships becomes a natural process that brings an added bonus to my business… I actually love what I do.  It’s because of those relationships that I work so hard to foster that I do really love my work.  So, I thought that for the purpose of this article I should try to define what those relationships are and why they are so important.

A relationship implies that there is an agreement between two or more people… at least to me it does.  Each person has a vested interest in the other person because of this agreement.  Well, that sounds terribly boring.

Okay, so here’s what I really think… building relationships with my clients is fun.  Hmmm, too simplistic? 

Okay, third time’s the charm… if you want to be successful in business, you’ve got to have clients and it’s kind of important that they like you (am I getting warmer?)  Without them, you’ve pretty much got you… and you.  So let’s go back and take a look at both of my first tries at explaining this.

Building a relationship with a client can be a fun and mutually beneficial “agreement” that you both make in order to get something important from the other person.  For example, as a professional portrait photographer, it’s important that I not only have people to take pictures of, but it’s equally important that those people are comfortable with me as their photographer.  The first part of that is obvious because if I don’t have people to take pictures of, then I won’t have a business.  The second part though is something that is a bit more fluid and definitely beneficial to both of us.  

As my passion for my work becomes more obvious to the client, it can tend to be infectious (but much nicer than say, the Swine Flu!)  A comfort level begins to build between us that allows them to trust me.  They begin to trust that not only can I do a good job technically for their portraits, but that I am somebody that they will be able to relax with.  Let’s face it, how many people really like getting their pictures taken?  Do you? From my informal survey of every customer who sits in front of my camera, I’m going to say about 1 in 10,000 (I did say it was informal, right?)  I’d say those aren’t great odds for getting genuine smiles out of people!  So having them be able to relax and get comfortable with me is an invaluable tool in my arsenal of business (and life) skills.

Why is that mutually beneficial?  Well, one of the reasons most people give for not liking to get their picture taken is that they don’t like the way they themselves look in the pictures.  Of course you don’t like the way you look in them silly… you were uncomfortable (and all the teenage boys were grumpy!)  So when I can help somebody to relax and even enjoy their experience with me, their time if front of the camera becomes a much happier place to be.  That, in turn, leads to fun, relaxed images that I can then turn into beautiful pieces of artwork featuring the very people who don’t usually like getting their pictures taken.  I just became their favorite photographer because they think I used some sort of magic technology to make them look good.  The thing is, the trick I have up my sleeve is the relationship with that person.  I simply develop relationships with my clients, and that makes all the difference in the world.  They get images that they love and an experience they won’t forget, and I develop a client for life. 

There is a quote I used a lot when I was teaching customer service classes.  I’m not sure who originally said it, but it always seemed very relevant to me both professionally and personally.

“In ten years from now, they won’t remember what you said or did.  But they will remember how you made them feel.”

Isn’t that really what developing a relationship with our clients is about?  It’s the way they feel when they call for the first time and are treated with courtesy, warmth and respect.  It’s the way they feel when they call with a question and we remember who they are.  It’s the way a new parent feels while they watch me gently position their newborn (who of course is sleeping ever so peacefully) for the baby’s first ever portrait session, or the awe that a two-year olds parents feel when they finally see the images from their toddler’s session (when they were just sure there was no way I could have gotten any good pictures out of that chaos… oh, I’ve heard that one many a time!)  It’s also the feeling they get when they receive a personalized card at the holidays from us, or in some cases, a call to let them know we care when we’ve heard of some bad news or event in their lives.

Every single contact I have with every single client is important. 

Here’s the bottom line when it comes to client relationships, or any relationships for that matter … you have to truly care about the person or they will know it.  It comes out in your tone of voice, in your body language, in the way you handle their questions and concerns, with the attentiveness you show them, and with every call, meeting or just bumping into them in the grocery store. 

I believe in the value of people and in the immeasurable value of relationships.  It’s a part of who I am and it drives the way I live my life and run my business.  It empowers me to be the best person I can be and to treat others like they are always the best person I believe them to be.  Because of that, I am able to reap so much joy and happiness from my life and my career.  Building those relationships becomes a joy, not a chore.  This is what truly feeds my passion for what I do.

So here’s to all those relationships in life that make it worth while!

Come by the main site and look through my picture galleries at http://www.lifeprintsportrait.com/Picture%20Galleries-Main.htm.  Can you see the relationships I have with my clients through the images I create?  Let me know what you think.

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Let’s Shoot Some Self-Portraits! {Photography Education, Life Prints Portrait Design}

Posted on March 11, 2011. Filed under: Articles, Education | Tags: , , |

Yesterday, I wrote about how important it is for photographers to have a picture of themselves on their website.  I mentioned finding another photographer to do a photo session swap with, and then today I had another idea.  I’d like to take this one a bit further though.

Have you ever done a self portrait of yourself?  I have.  I’ve done them when I need to test lighting and I’ve even done one when I didn’t have anybody else to do it for me and needed an image for my website.  It’s been a while since I’ve done that, but it was fun and garnered some interesting images for me.  So I thought I’d throw a little challenge out there.  I want everyone, whether you’re a photographer or not, to do some self portraits.  I don’t care if it’s a picture taken at arms length from your point & shoot camera or a fully staged studio shot.  Just get out there and start snapping away

Why would you want to do this?  First, it’s fun… really.  Are you goofy, fun, outgoing?  Then try to capture that in some creative way.  Are you shy, introverted and this sounds painful to you… especially when I tell you that I want you to post it online?  That’s okay.  Break out of your comfort zone a little bit and see what you can come up with.  Let’s see shy little ol’ you.  Here’s a picture I did of myself a few years ago when I was testing how to use a hair light in my makeshift home studio…

(I think this was before I learned to pluck my eyebrows!)

Here’s what we’re going to do… for the next week I want everyone to start working on your self portrait.  Then next Friday (March 18th, 2011)  I want everyone to post one of their images over on our Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/lifeprints).  We’re going to have a contest and give away some prizes ( I don’t know what they are yet because I just thought of this, doh!)  But we’ll have some fun with it.  I think we’ll do different categories.  How about these:  most original, most professional, goofiest, best lighting and best smile?  I’ll announce what the prizes will be next week and then once you’ve posted your self portrait, we’ll use likes to vote.  You’ll only be able to receive one vote from a person (we’ll double check usernames) and whoever wins with the most votes in each categoy will receive a prize.  This is going to be fun!

So start thinking about ideas for your self portrait.  Tomorrow, I’m going to post on ways to come up with ideas.  Feel free to chime in if you have any great ideas now that you’d like me to include.

Alrighty then!  The ideas I come up with at one o’clock in the morning.  Yipee!!!!!

Can’t wait to see what everyone comes up with  🙂

Lora

P.S.  If you have a website or blog and you post a comment here, make sure you put a link to your site so that you can get some incoming links going!  It doesn’t have to be obnoxious, just finish the comment with your name and put the link under that.  No problema mis amigos!

 

And don’t forget to come visit our main site… http://www.lifeprintsportrait.com

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A Picture On Your Page {Photographers Education, Life Prints Portrait Design}

Posted on March 9, 2011. Filed under: Articles, Education, For Photographers | Tags: , , , , |

I was inspired yesterday by a fellow blogger/photographers post regarding going in front of the lens to have her own portrait done.  So I thought I’d share a little pet peeve of mine that I talk about in my workshops for photographers.

Why don’t photographers put a picture of themselves on their own website?  Seriously!

We who are people photographers are dependant on people valuing… photography.  We ask them to hire us and pay us money to take their pictures.  We want them to buy prints from us to display in their homes, offices, purses and wallets.  It is implied by the very nature of our jobs as photographers that we value the power of pictures.  So what does it say to a potential client who goes to your website, looks on your about or bio page and finds no picture of the photographer?

What they find instead is a bunch a text about the photographer or the studio.  They may even see a picture… of somebody the photographer has photographed.  Cute as that person and their adorable little kid is, it’s still not the photographer.

I don’t get it.  I really don’t.  Okay, I understand all of the “reasons” we can come up with to not get this done… “I don’t have anybody to take MY picture”, “I’m a photographer.  I’m more comfortable behind the camera instead of in front of it”, “I’m trying to lose weight first”… really?

So here’s the two reasons I think it is really, really important for photographers to have their own picture on their website:

  1. We believe in photography.  We don’t just love taking pictures, we understand why pictures are important for people in their lives.  Because of that, we lead by example and show potential clients what we want them to do.
  2. A picture is worth a thousand words… literally.  You can have all the text in the world on your bio page but if you put your picture on there, you let potential clients get to know you.  They are going to take that first step towards feeling like they know you. As portrait and wedding photographers, an important part of our success is building relationships with clients and potential clients.  They need to trust us and they start that process with the information they get about us… and a picture tells them a whole bunch about who this person is on this anonymous website they’ve just navigated to.
  3. We need to understand how our clients feel in front of the camera.  We’re no more perfect than they are in terms of how we feel about ourselves and they need to see us putting ourselves out there like we are asking them to do.  That way, you can honestly say you know how they feel when it comes time to overcoming objections to why now isn’t a good time to get their pictures done.

So there you have it!  Photographers, go find a photographer friend to do your business portrait for you.  If you don’t have a photographer friend, go find one.  Look up some photographers in your area and call or email them and propose a portrait session swap to do each others portraits.  Don’t wait until you’re the perfect weight or feel great about your hair, skin, smile, nose, butt, thighs… whatever!  It will never be the perfect time….

I take that back.  NOW is the perfect time… go get it done and let your personality shine through!!

P.S.  If you’re in the Portland, Oregon area I am going to be doing a workshop on business basics for photographers and one of the things we’re going to do is business portraits for each other!  I’ll be putting some info on here soon about the dates for the workshops.

Take care everyone!

Lora                                  

    Lora Phillippi_photographer_portland oregon

Childrens photography_portland oregonCome visit us at www.lifeprintsportrait.com

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What Are You Worth As A Photographer? {Photography Education, Life Prints Portrait Design}

Posted on March 8, 2011. Filed under: Articles, Education, For Photographers | Tags: , , |

When I first got started in photography, I was in a state of “portfolio building”.  In other words, I knew I wanted to take pictures and get paid for it, but I didn’t have any pictures to show to potential clients.  Ah, the infamous catch 22.  So I did what 99% of wannabe professional photographers do… I started taking pictures of friends and family and in exchange for them “modeling” for me, I gave them a few prints (aka: TFP, time for prints.)  It worked!  I started building a portfolio of images that I could show people and say “hey, I’m a professional photographer.  Now I’d like you to pay me XX for me to take YOUR pictures.”  If folks liked them, I was in business… and surprisingly enough to me at the time, they did like them.

Looking back at those images and the ones that followed over the next year or two, quite frankly I’m embarrassed by many of them and surprised that so many people actually wanted to pay me to take their portraits.  That’s not to say that they were horrible… compared to uncle Bob’s.  Compared to seasoned pro’s though, well, let’s just say I wasn’t winning any grand champion awards (though I did take third place in the reflections category in the county fair!  We’ll save competitions for another article.)  What I had realized though in building my portfolio and in those early days of charging clients for my services, was that if I could compose a decent image and didn’t cut anybody’s heads off… folks thought they were pretty good.  Why?  Because they couldn’t get their kids to stand still for them and because grandma always cuts everybody’s heads off in pictures (at least mine does… I love you Gammer, but you know it’s true!)

At this same time I was getting started, I had this idealism that I would be able to bring “fine art portraiture” to the masses… in other words, amazing portraits at prices that could undercut the expensive studios.  I remember actually writing somewhere, that I felt like “regular” people should be able to have the same high quality portraits as people who could afford to go to the fancy studios in town who were charging outrageous prices for people  to get their pictures taken.  I figured, if I got enough people through my doors at those “affordable” prices I’d be set for life.  You see, while I loved photography, I hadn’t yet been in business as a photographer.  I mean, yeah, I had charged some people money for the work I did and had a business name and all, but I hadn’t had to support my business or my family with that income yet. 

Boy, was I in for some surprises!

So there were several factors at play during this time period.  First, I was an inexperienced photographer with a decent eye but not such great technical skills.  Second, as an inexperienced photographer, I didn’t know much about quality prints and I was either giving away my digital files on a CD with sessions and/or getting all my prints for people done at Costco.  I’m going to talk about the digital files in a minute, but lets talk about prints for just a second.  I thought things were going along pretty well in terms of the product (prints) I was giving to people.  I was charging a fair price ($18 for an 8×10 in 2005) and was getting a GREAT deal on my cost by getting them printed at my local Costco.  I had even done a little research on printer profiles and had my online ordering set up so that I could get accurate colors through them.  Then I had a huge wake up call.

My sister had a baby.  Man was I excited because I was now the family’s official professional photographer and I was going to get to do the newborn portraits of my week old nephew, Ethan.  I flew from Idaho to Massachusetts to spend a week with them.  I took all my camera gear with me including a couple of backdrops, lights and stands… the whole nine yards.  The images themselves weren’t too bad.  I got home, posted them online and told people to start placing their orders.  Well, my brother-in-laws mom ordered some prints from me and I got them all done, sent them off to her in California and about a week later I received an email from her.  I don’t remember the exact wording of the entire email, but I do remember this one part:

“why is he gray?  My grandson is not an indian baby!”

Um, first of all, I’m not sure why she thinks indian babies are gray… but,  the point was that these were color images and babies should not be gray.  I pulled out a bunch of other images that I had from Costco and when I looked at them with a now critical eye, she was right.  Everyone was kinda gray.  Wow!  That’s not good.  So I had them redone and double checked my monitor, my color profiles, everything.  I sent her the new prints.  Better, but still gray.  At that point, I started doing some serious research.  I contacted several professional labs and had sample prints made.  Here’s what I found out:

  1. Babies really are pink in printed images (not just on my computer monitor)
  2. Quality does matter!  I’m talking paper here to packaging.

I was truly blown away with this new-found knowledge and couldn’t believe the difference that one discovery made in my presentation as a professional.  And the funny thing is, I could now see my work in a different light.  I could see the quality in what I was providing people.  It boosted my confidence and guess what… I boosted my prices a little.

So my next big wake up call came in December of 2007.  I had the amazingly fortunate opportunity to go to a week-long “digital boot camp” with one of the top photographers in the country, Kevin Kubota.  It changed my world in terms of my career and who I am as a photographer.  Without going into all of the details that would be way too long for this article, what I came out of that training with was an appreciation for who I am as an artist and as a business person. (Keep in mind that I had been doing this for about three years now and my technical skills were getting much better.)  I had been so UNDER-valuing my work that it was just plain sad.  I was basically giving it away.  Why?  Because I loved what I was doing and wanted to be able to share that with as many people as possible.  In my mind, that meant that if I charged an “affordable” price that more people would hire me.  I was doing charity work for several organizations and I was giving discounts hand over fist to any paying client who seemed like they needed one.  At the first sign of resistance to my prices (which weren’t that high to start with) I would start offering discounts and throwing things in for free.  “Oh, you can’t afford to pay for a session and for prints because of the new baby?  Well here, let me throw those on a cd for you.  How does $50 sound?”

That’s great for a hobby, but it’s sure as heck no way to run a business!

I’m a very compassionate person.  I like to be involved in charity organizations and I like to help people.  Kevin said something to us that was so profound about this… he said (and I’m paraphrasing here) “If you want to help somebody out who can’t afford it, then give it to them for free.  Otherwise, charge what your worth and what it takes to run your business successfully.  Then take some of that money you’ve been so successful with and go help a whole bunch more people.”

So what did I do?  I came home and I got to work.  I reworked my pricing.  I reworked my philosophy on giving out my digital files.  I reworked my branding and marketing to better match who I now saw myself as in terms of being a true professional with both passion and ability, as well as a business to run.  I STOPPED giving my work away!  Read that again… STOP GIVING YOUR WORK AWAY!

I had gone through a true metamorphosis from being a wannabe professional photographer in 2004, to a highly skilled, confident business woman and professional photographer in 2008.  Four years and a world away from where I had started.  That doesn’t mean that I didn’t have a whole lot more lessons to learn in a lot of areas, but I had taken myself and my business to the next level.  That’s what I want to help all of those aspiring photographers out there do as well.  You don’t have to start out with an art degree from a university to be a professional photographer.  Anybody with a digital camera and a desire can do it… or can they?

I’m an optimist and a dreamer… so that part of me wants to say “YES!”  absolutely everybody can do it.  But here’s the caveat to that… anybody can do it who is willing to step out of their comfort zone and learn what it takes to run a successful business and then have the guts to do it.  The artist in us wants to dive into the creative process and be all about the smiles and fun.  The business person in us must take a hard look at what it takes to be successful. 

So, what are worth?  And can you support yourself and your family on what you’ve been valuing your work at up until now?  If the answer to those questions don’t meet up with reality, then it’s time to start making some changes. 

My next articles are going to be on the true cost of being in business as a photographer and the value of prints vs. digital negatives.  I think you may be surprised by what we talk about!  I hope to see you back here as we delve into the deep dark scary world of running a successful photography business.  BUT… by doing the scary stuff, we get to do all the fun stuff that makes it all worth while for us creative types!!

Come on over to the main site and see what we’re up to.  http://www.lifeprintsportrait.com  I’d love to chat with you!

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    Musings of an eternal optimist on all things photographic, business and well… life in general

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